Ilya Repin's Ukrainian Heritage, with Svitlana Shiells

September 27, 2016
Painting of Ilya Repin

REPIN portret REPIN200Svitlana Shiells, an adjunct professor in art history at George Mason University, will give HURI's next Seminar in Ukrainian Studies on October 3, 2016. The event, entitled "Illia Repin Unknown: Ukrainism, Japonisme, and More" will take a fresh look at the artist's heritage and its influence on his work. All are welcome to attend. 

Ilya Repin (1844 – 1930) is usually cast as the father figure of Russian art. This status led to severe ideologization and censorship of his art and writing. Moreover, Russian and Soviet scholars presented Repin as an indigenous Russian artist, avoiding the topic of his Ukrainian roots and the unshakable presence of Ukrainism in his oeuvre, and portraying him as an artist who was immune from any Western influences. Due to this, Repin's work suffered a lack of impartial critical scrutiny.

This lecture aims to draw attention to these neglected issues, illustrating that Repin’s formidable talent was undoubtedly shaped by Ukraine and its art. Moreover, Ukrainian themes and motifs were always an inseparable part of Repin’s heritage. It also argues that Repin was consistently open to Western artistic ideas, pointing to his experimentations and integration of the elements of Impressionism as well as Japonisme, etc. Thus, this presentation demonstrates the impossibility of evaluating the full range of Repin’s oeuvre without considering the broader context of the times and the role of Ukrainian and other stimuli.

Svitlana ShiellsSvitlana Shiells completed her studies, including a Ph.D., in Ukraine. She has taught at different universities in Ukraine, America, and Austria, including the University of Maryland, College Park; American University, Washington, D.C.; and Webster University, Vienna. Now, Dr. Shiells is working as a Research Associate at the Freer and Sackler Galleries and an adjunct professor at George Mason University. The focus of her research is Japonisme and fin de siècle Eastern and Central European art. Currently she is working on a monograph on the role of Japonisme in Gustav Klimt’s oeuvre. Ms. Shiells has presented her research at numerous conferences, lectures and presentations, for instance, at Tokyo University of the Arts, Colleague Art Association, the Embassies of Austria and Ukraine in Washington, D.C. and in Vienna, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, different galleries and art museums, etc.